There are a lot of technologies that are hyped up that never materialize. Flying cars, HAL 9000, etc. and we're now hyping new things like nano-technology, stem cells, transhumanism and HAL 2035. The technological singularity is "a predicted point in the development of a civilization at which technological progress accelerates beyond the ability of present-day humans to fully comprehend or predict." We create better computers which lead to advances in medical imaging, airplane design, materials science etc. The argument is that the synergy is exponential, these improvements bounce around inside the realm of technology in a sort of chain reaction. The computer designed materials are used to make better microprocessors and the loop grows stronger. This is known as the "Law of Accelerating Returns".

The trickle down theory of economics asserts that the wealthy are better able to create progress and therefore lower taxes on them will benefit all members of society in the long run. The new initiative to introduce $100 laptops in 3rd world countries has similar roots; the theory being that sufficient number of smart people connected to the Internet are better able to create progress than an overfunded minority. India has one billion citizens 70% of which live in villages. 700 million people with no access to the information on the Internet. Brilliant minds languishing on small farms, minds that could develop cures for diseases, create new art or maybe even design the elusive flying car... The chart is there as an example of the untapped potential that's about to be unleashed upon the world.

"The whole class of a village school has traveled to this city stadium by bus for a great adventure - the chance to see for the first time something most of us already take for granted - a computer. The boys were jumping up and down and shrieking with excitement, despite the blazing sunshine. Their clothing was worn, many were barefoot."

I think the big overlooked part of the singularity is the awareness that as soon as computers become a little more affordable they'll flood into those villages and hoe wielding would-be Einsteins will take note. $5 billion spent on AIDS research is a commendable expenditure. $5 billion spent on connecting millions of minds to the internet and the resultant potential benefits to open source software and it's effects on productivity are possibly even more likely to lead to advances that cure AIDS.

Open source software will be huge not because it is inexpensive but because it favors open standards. Think railways with different track gauges. IT careers consist mainly of fixing problems due to poorly designed software and learning new and varied systems because of the lack of standards. Open source is changing that hence the recent decline in IT salaries. It's ironic that IT as a profession has a cloudy future not because things change but because they're becoming standardized. That standardization allows the development of automation. Proprietary de-facto standards(Windows/MS Office) aren't going to fly in developing countries as evidenced by the use of Linux on the $100 laptop. 2010 could be interesting.


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